Coronavirus: Indians Are Buying More Frozen Fries, Patties And Curries 

Sales of frozen foods like fries and meat products to curries and pastes jumped.

Shoppers browse chilled and frozen foods at a D-Mart supermarket operated by Avenue Supermarts Ltd. in Thane, Maharashtra, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)
Shoppers browse chilled and frozen foods at a D-Mart supermarket operated by Avenue Supermarts Ltd. in Thane, Maharashtra, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of supplies aided a fledgling category in India’s consumer goods market: ready-to-cook food.

Sales of frozen foods like fries, patties, meat and fish products and products such as curries, batter, pastes and desserts jumped in urban areas as consumers stocked up during the lockdown. The demand is largely concentrated in metro and tier-1 cities that have modern retail and high-end stores with refrigeration facilities.

iD Fresh Foods, which sells idli and dosa batter, filter coffee among other products, saw its goods fly off the shelves during the lockdown—a trend that persisted even in April and May. “Our average monthly revenues rose from Rs 20 crore to Rs 24 crore during the lockdown despite drastically reducing the number of stores and also selling our products in four stock-keeping units,” PC Mustafa, co-founder of iD Fresh Foods, told BloombergQuint.

The ready-to-cook market is expected to more than double in value to Rs 4,800 crore in five years through 2024, Redseer had said in a report last year. The market researcher said that while frozen foods accounts for nearly three-fourths of the segment, non-frozen food is expected to grow at 20 percent during this period.

And iD Fresh is gradually increasing the number of stores it services. The food startup said during the lockdown it served around 10,000 stores compared with 30,000 in the pre Covid-19 period.

MTR Foods Pvt Ltd., which makes ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods and basic essentials like curries, meals, spices and vermicelli, also said it seen a rise in sales during the lockdown despite not being able to cover all its stores. The company said demand for its ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products rose by 20 percent during the lockdown and sales of essentials like spices and vermicelli went up by 15 percent. Segments like value-added confectionaries were, however, impacted.

“We’re trying to prioritise some categories and ramp-up capacities which are witnessing higher sales,” said Sunay Bhasin, chief marketing officer of MTR Foods, told BloombergQuint over the phone.

The company is serving 50-60 percent of all its outlets. But Bhasin explained that number keeps changing as areas get classified as containment zones due to the spread of the virus.

The lockdown has given an opportunity for even leading consumer goods makers to expand their offerings.

Nestle India Ltd. said in an emailed statement to BloombergQuint that it has seen an overall rise in home consumption across some of its categories.

Marico Ltd. agreed. There’s a definite reduction in out-of-home consumption and increase in in-home meals consumption across the board, it said in an emailed statement. The company said its food portfolio posted a value growth of 22 percent in the quarter ended March, led by its Saffola Oats range.

“In recent times, we have witnessed increasing health consciousness among consumers and believe that this trend is here to stay,” Sanjay Mishra, chief operating officer of Marico's India sales and Bangladesh business, told BloombergQuint in an email.

Companies also said that there’s been a change in the mix of their distribution channels. “We ourselves have witnessed the contribution of e-commerce gong up significantly, while out-of-home sector hasn’t done well,” said Nestle. Marico, on the other hand, has launched its direct-to-home consumer portal for products under Saffola and Coco Soul brands. Other companies like iD Fresh and Zorabian Chicken have also opened online channels to look at direct-to-home supply to the consumers.

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